Top Engineers – Chris Kimsey

Peter Frampton – Somethin’s Happening (and It’s Not Very Good)

This is Frampton’s third album, released in 1974. A year later he would put out the wonderful Frampton album, tour it, and record the tour, which became Frampton Comes Alive. Finally the world would hear what a talented songwriter, singer, guitarist and all around performer the man had always been, starting with Humble Pie and reaching his zenith with his first solo album, Wind of Change, his Magnum Opus and a Desert Island Disc for your truly.

All the songs from this album that he played live are dramatically better in live performance than they are in the studio on this album.

Frampton produced Somethin’s Happening and unfortunately for all concerned the production is piss-poor, as is the sound.

I’ve never heard this record sound better than passable, whether on domestic or British vinyl. I gave up finding something better decades ago. The album is just not worth it.

As far as Peter Frampton’s body of work through the ’70s is concerned, it is clearly his worst sounding album

The records he released in the ’80s are even worse — no surprise there — and the music is every bit as bad.

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The Rolling Stones – Tattoo You

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  • Boasting superb Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides, this vintage copy of the Stones’ 1981 release will be very hard to beat
  • The midrange is both rich and clear, with Jagger’s vocals front and center, exactly where they belong
  • The piano has real weight, the grungy guitars are suitably distorted, and the tonal balance is correct from top to bottom – our classic Hot Stamper sound in a nutshell
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Tattoo You captures the Stones at their best as a professional stadium-rock band… “Waiting on a Friend” and the vigorous rock & roll of the first side make Tattoo You an essential latter-day Stones album, ranking just a few notches below Some Girls.”
  • If you’re a Stones fan, this title from 1981 is one of their better later releases
  • The complete list of titles from 1981 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here

In the tradition of other late ’70s / early ’80s Stones albums (Some Girls, Goats Head Soup, It’s Only Rock And Roll), the sound is a bit raw at times, but a copy like this one gives you the kind of energy, body and richness to make for some very enjoyable serious listening.

The sound here is big and rich, with more “meat on the bones” as we like to say. The guitars are chunky and powerful, which exactly the sound you want for a song like Start Me Up, which leads things off here. The best sides have more extension up top and more size to the soundfield as well.

As with any Stones album, don’t expect any sonic miracles. Hot Stampers aren’t going to turn this into Tea For The Tillerman. If you want to hear an amazing sounding Demo Quality record, this ain’t it, but if you love this music and are frustrated with the sound of the typical pressing, I bet you’ll enjoy the heck outta this one. (more…)

The Rolling Stones – Some Girls

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  • You’ll find superb grades on both sides of this early pressing – fairly quiet vinyl too
  • It’s got weight, punch, energy and fullness – qualities key to the best sounding pressings
  • A Top 100 Title, with a surplus of great songs – “Miss You,” “Beast of Burden” and “Shattered,” all sounding shockingly good, thanks to the engineering skills of Chris Kimsey
  • 5 stars: “Opening with the disco-blues thump of ‘Miss You,’ Some Girls is a tough, focused, and exciting record, full of more hooks and energy than any Stones record since Exile on Main St. Even Their rockers sound harder and nastier than they have in years.”

This is the Stones’ last truly great album. All Music Guide gives it the same 5 star rating that they awarded Beggars Banquet, Let It Bleed, and Sticky Fingers. With hits like “Miss You,” “Shattered,” and “Beast Of Burden,” it’s easy to see why.

Most copies are too thin and grainy for serious audiophile listening, but this one is a different story. It’s not easy to find great sound for The Stones, so take this one home for a spin if you want to hear this band bring these songs to life in your very own listening room.

Not many copies have this kind of clarity and transparency, or this kind of big, well-defined bottom end. The sound of the hi-hat is natural and clear on this pressing, as are the vocals, which means that the tonality in the midrange is correct, and what could be more important than a good midrange? It’s where the music is.

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Peter Frampton – Frampton’s Camel

The Music of Peter Frampton Available Now

Peter Frampton Albums We’ve Reviewed

  • On his second album, Frampton fronts a real rock band, playing his unique style of rock and pop, electric and acoustic, with consummate skill – if you’re a Frampton fan this is a record that belongs in your collection
  • Superb engineering from Chris Kimsey and Eddie Kramer at Olympic and Electric Lady Studios
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Named after Frampton’s touring band at the time, Frampton’s Camel has a harder-rocking feel than its predecessor Wind of Change, with Mick Gallagher’s percussive electric piano and organ taking a prominent position in the mix and Frampton getting a harder sound from his electric guitars (though his acoustic playing is so lush and lyrical that it dominates the album here and there in its quiet way).”
  • If you’re a Frampton fan — I sure am — then this title from 1973 comes highly recommended.
  • All titles from 1973 we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

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Peter Frampton – Frampton

  • An outstanding original A&M pressing of Frampton with solid Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish
  • Far too many copies have a problem with dry, edgy, lean vocals, the kind of vocal sound you simply cannot find anywhere on UK pressings of Wind of Change, but the best pressings of Frampton are richer and tubier without crossing into being dark and murky
  • This has long been a personal favorite of mine, it’s a an album I’ve played hundreds of times and never tired of
  • 4 stars: “Frampton exited Humble Pie because that group fell into a loud, hard rock groove that overwhelmed the technical skills he’d spent years working on as a guitarist; he poured a lot of that into this highly melodic mid-tempo rock album.”

A bit of background: Both his first solo album and this, his fourth, were recorded by the well-known engineer Chris Kimsey, who famously worked with the Stones and others too numerous to mention. To say that the sound of his albums varies considerably would be the understatement of the year. The first album (British only, fyi) is rich, sweet, and Tubey Magical as practically anything you’ve ever heard (as well as overly tube compressed, its biggest fault).

Sonically this album tends to be none of those things. However, if you play enough copies you are sure to run into at least some that sound right.

I unashamedly confess to being a huge Frampton fan to this very day. His first album, Wind of Change, has been a Desert Island Disc for me ever since I picked up my first copy while still in high school in 1972. I’m a Big Production Rock Guy, as you may have guessed from looking at the records we rave about the most, and Frampton’s first album is a classic of Big Production Rock, in the style of Abbey Road, Dark Side of the Moon, Songs for Beginners and fifty others I could name. Make that a hundred others. Or two hundred.

Which also explains why I’ve had very large dynamic speakers since about 1975, when I was first able to scrape together enough money to buy a pair of the well-regarded RTR 280-DR. (My mother had to co-sign the loan I took out shortly thereafter to buy an Audio Research SP3A-1 preamp and D-75 amp to power them, if that tells you anything. And ARC was reasonably priced back then; neither piece was even a grand!)

This fourth Frampton album may not boast the sound of his first, but it can have reasonably good sound, and musically it’s his strongest album after his debut, providing as it does much of the material for the blockbuster double live album that was to follow in less than a year, the one that broke the all time sales record set by Tapestry (and would be be bested itself soon enough by a little number known as the soundtrack to Saturday Night Fever). (more…)

Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin III

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Letters and Commentaries for Led Zeppelin III

  • Huge, Tubey Magical and lively, with solid weight down low and lots of space around all the instruments, this copy is guaranteed to rock like nothing you have ever heard
  • Since I’ve Been Loving You, Gallows Pole, Tangerine and That’s the Way are just a few of the tracks that have truly Demo Disc sound
  • 5 stars: “On their first two albums, Led Zeppelin unleashed a relentless barrage of heavy blues and rockabilly riffs, but Led Zeppelin III provided the band with the necessary room to grow musically. While there are still a handful of metallic rockers, III is built on a folky, acoustic foundation that gives the music extra depth.”
  • If you’re a fan of the band, this classic from 1970 belongs in your collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1970 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

Drop the needle on Since I’ve Been Loving You and turn it up good and loud. Robert Plant will be right there between your speakers, and your jaw will be on the floor!

Cue up Tangerine on side two for a taste of rich, sweet, Tubey Magical Analog Sound. The acoustic guitars are lush and delicate, the bass is deep and well-defined, and the vocals are completely natural and free from bad mastering or phony EQ. (more…)

Peter Frampton / Wind of Change – Glorious Big Speaker Sound

The Music of Peter Frampton Available Now

Peter Frampton Albums We’ve Reviewed

Commentaries and Reviews for Big Speaker Records

A while back we discussed the kind of sound that Glyn Johns managed to get for the likes of Humble Pie and The Who:

But oh what a glorious sound it is when it’s working. There’s not a trace of anything phony up top, down low or anywhere in-between. This means it has a quality sorely at odds with the vast majority of audiophile pressings, new and old, as well as practically anything recorded in the last twenty years, and it is simply this: The louder you play it the better it gets.

This is without a doubt a big speaker record, one that requires the highest-resolution, lowest-distortion components to bring out its best qualities. If you have a system like that you should find much to like here.

I bought my first copy in 1972 when I was still in high school and it quickly became one of my favorite records. All these years later it still is. It’s records like this that shaped my audio purchases and pursuits. It takes a monster system to even begin to play this record right and that’s the kind of stereo I’ve always been drawn to. A stereo that can’t play this record, or The Beatles, or Ambrosia, or Yes, or the hundreds of other amazing recordings we put up on the site every year, is not one I would be very likely to own.

This is Peter Frampton’s Masterpiece as well as a Personal Favorite of yours truly.

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Ten Years After / A Space in Time

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Reviews and Commentaries for A Space in Time

  • An excellent Columbia pressing with solid Double Plus (A++) sound throughout
  • These sides are tonally correct, big and bold, with the kind of rich, full-bodied sound that is the hallmark of rock recordings in the early to mid- ’70s
  • One of the most important records in my growth as an audiophile from 1971 to the present – my stereo was forced to evolve in order to play this kind of Big Production rock, at the loud levels that the album requires to work its magic
  • No matter how many times you play the album you will hear (and hopefully appreciate) something new in the mix
  • 4 stars: “The leadoff track, ‘One of These Days,’ is a particularly scorching workout, featuring extended harmonica and guitar solos. The production on A Space in Time is crisp and clean, a sound quite different from the denseness of its predecessors [that] has its share of sparkling moments.”

I always knew this great album could sound good, but it’s not often I heard it sound like this!

A Space in Time is just one of the recordings that made me pursue Big Stereo Systems driving Big Speakers, right from my earliest days in audio. You need large dynamic drivers with plenty of piston area – the kind that can move a lot of air – in order to bring the power of the music to life.

If you have big speakers and a penchant for giving the old volume knob an extra click or two, it just doesn’t get any better than A Space In Time.

No matter how many times you play the album you will hear (and hopefully appreciate) something new in the mix. I’ve been playing ASIT for thirty years and I heard lots of things this time around I never knew were there. This is why we keep improving our systems, right? There is never going to be a time when these nearly forty year old recordings have nothing new to offer.

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Peter Frampton – Wind of Change

The Music of Peter Frampton Available Now

Peter Frampton Albums We’ve Reviewed

  • Frampton’s solo debut returns, now with Double Plus (A+++) sound on both sides and fairly quiet vinyl for an early UK pressing circa 1972
  • This vintage British pressing is the very definition of TUBEY MAGIC, with sound so rich and sweet it will make you want to take all your CDs and dump them in the trash (now that record stores don’t even want them anymore)
  • The best copies like this one keep what’s good about the recording while letting us hear into the soundfield with glorious transparency
  • 4 stars: “The sound is crisp, the melodies catchy, and Frampton’s distinctive, elliptical Gibson Les Paul guitar leads soar throughout…“

This is some of the best High-Production-Value rock music of the ’60s and ’70s. The amount of effort that went into the recording of this album is comparable to that expended by the engineers and producers of bands like Supertramp, Yes, Jethro Tull, Ambrosia, Pink Floyd, Elton John and too many others to list. It seems that no effort or cost was spared in making the home listening experience as compelling as the recording technology of the day permitted.

The best song Peter Frampton ever wrote (and performed) is on this very record, in White Hot Stamper sound no less: All I Wanna Be (Is by Your Side). It has the Tubey Magical sound WE LOVE here at Better Records.

However, the richness that makes British recordings from the era so good can easily go over the edge, turning the sound into a thick, mucky stew in which the individual sonic components become difficult to separate out. Think of the typically dull Who’s Next or early Genesis or Jethro Tull albums and you’ll know exactly what I mean.

Only a select group of pressings are able to strike the right balance between Tubey Magic and clarity. This is one of those.

And as far as we can tell it’s the only version of the album that’s pressed from the master tape. The domestic A&M LPs are clearly made from dubbed tapes. They are as flat, small, smeary, veiled and opaque as any Heavy Vinyl pressing being made today, and we long ago gave up on them (i.e., domestic pressings of this album and Heavy Vinyl in general). (more…)

A Space in Time – One of The Most Tubey Magical Rock Recordings of All Time

Reviews and Commentaries for A Space in Time

This is some of the best High-Production-Value rock music of the ’70s. The amount of effort that went into the recording of this album is comparable to that expended by the engineers and producers of bands like Supertramp, Yes, Jethro Tull, Ambrosia, Pink Floyd and too many others to list. It seems that no effort or cost was spared in making the home listening experience as compelling as the recording technology of the day permitted. (Of course, as it turns out, recording technology only got worse as the decade wore on, and during the ’80s the sound of most records went off a cliff.) Big Production British Rock & Roll just doesn’t get much better than A Space in Time.

The Tubey Magic Top Ten

You don’t need tube equipment to hear the prodigious amounts of Tubey Magic that exist on this recording. For those of you who’ve experienced top quality analog pressings of Meddle or Dark Side of the Moon, or practically any jazz album on Contemporary, whether played through tubes or transistors, that’s the luscious sound of Tubey Magic, and it is all over A Space in Time.

Ranked strictly in terms of Tubey Magic I would have to put this album on our list of Most Tubey Magical Rock Recordings of All Time, right up there with, in no particular order:

  • Sgt. Pepper (1967),
  • Meddle (1971),
  • Dark Side of the Moon (1973),
  • Dire Straits Self-Titled (1977, and clearly the outlier in this group),
  • The Eagles Self-Titled (1972),
  • Tommy (1969),
  • The Doors Self-Titled (1967),
  • Ziggy Stardust (1972),
  • Tumbleweed Connection (1970)

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